20th August 2022
HODGKINSON AND MEN'S 4X400M RELAY STORM TO GOLDEN GLORY AT EUROS
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland team enjoyed a superb evening at the Olympiastadion in Munich as they claimed four medals across the session including golds for Keely Hodgkinson (coach: Trevor Painter, club: Leigh) and the men’s 4x400m relay team, and bronze medals for the women’s 4x400m relay and Lizzie Bird (Pat McCurry, Shaftesbury Barnet) in the 3000m Steeplechase, taking GB & NI’s overall medal tally up to 18 overall.
Keely Hodgkinson justified her pre-race favourite status with an ultimately dominating run. She bided her time in this race, tracking the moves of the field over the opening 500m before making her decisive move down the back straight, with compatriot Jemma Reekie (Andy Young, Kilbarchan) initially going with the pace before fading in the final 100m, but it was Hodgkinson’s night in Germany. Taking the race on with 200m to go she charged home to take the tape with several metres to spare in 1:59.04.
After securing her gold medal at the third major championships in just six weeks, she was delighted, “I’m definitely really happy to have finished the season with this special gold medal. I felt like the race could have gone a few different ways. I thought I would sit back a little bit and see what everyone else would do. I got to 250m in a good position, and I set it up well to attack the last 120 and I had enough to bring it home.
“This one means a lot. I’ve got a great support team around me who have helped me to mentally get through the season. There has been a lot of changes for myself as I’ve adapted to professional athlete life but I am living out my childhood dreams so I really cannot complain.
“Coming off the Olympic Games last summer, many people go through an Olympic drought after such a high, but I never experienced that. For me it was about keeping turning up for training and applying myself in races. Overall, I’m really happy with this season and I am doing my dream job.”
Reekie ended the race in fifth place in a time of 2:00.31, while Alex Bell (Andrew Henderson, Pudsey and Bramley), who was also in the mix at the final bend, came home in sixth in a time 2:00.68.
It was a gold medal winning run all the way from the Great Britain and Northern Ireland men’s 4x400m relay team. Drawn in the outside lane, Matthew Hudson-Smith (Gary Evans, Birchfield), already a gold medal winner here in Munich in the individual 400m, gave the team the perfect start with a comprehensive lead at the first handover.
After finishing fourth in last night’s 200m, Charlie Dobson (Benke Blomkvist, Colchester) stormed through the second leg to hand the baton on to Lewis Davey (Newham and Essex Beagles) who was chased all the way by Belgium and France but retained the lead.
On a high since his bronze medal on Wednesday, Alex Haydock-Wilson (Benke Blomkvist, Windsor Eton Slough Hounslow) took the baton with a slender lead which he increased as he absolutely flew down the back straight. He was pressurised by both Belgium and France who were hot on his heels as he started to tire but he remained strong, dug deep and sealed the gold medal in a season’s best for the team of 2:59.35, the first to break the 3-minute barrier since 2017.
Hudson-Smith commented afterwards, “It’s a great team atmosphere – a great team of boys, we’re just trying to carry on the great tradition of team GB 4x400m. We’ve got a great mentor in Martyn (Rooney) leading the way and telling us how to run this event.
“We’ve just beaten Belgium and we’re the top in Europe and it’s time to take on the world, we’re a team of young guys and we’re going to grow and develop and everyone’s learning and we’re just going to get stronger. We came here to win and we came here to dominate and we did exactly that. Last year no one would have thought we’d have a team or win a medal but we came here and showed them. We’re just going to keep going forward.”
In the 4x400m relay, the women’s team took the bronze medal after a brilliant battle with Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. On the first leg, fresh from her silver medal in Birmingham and fourth place here in the individual 400m, Victoria Ohuruogu (Christine Ohuruogu, Newham & Essex Beagles) held strong in lane three and was right in the mix as she handed the baton to Ama Pipi (Marco Airale, Enfield and Haringey). Pipi took the lead as the lanes broke at 500m with Netherlands and Belgium just behind.
During the third leg Jodie Williams (Stuart McMillan, Herts Phoenix) was neck and neck with Netherlands for most of the lap but did establish a lead as they went down the back straight. Handing over to Nicole Yeargin (Boogie Johnson, Pitreavie), there were four teams still very much in it with three medals up for grabs.
There was a strong first 200m from Yeargin as she held them off but on the final bend, Fenke Bol for the Netherlands – the 400m and 400m Hurdles champion here in Munich – let fly securing her third gold medal of the Championships. As the Polish runner closed in to take silver, Yeargin fought right to the line to ensure it was a bronze medal for the British team in a season’s best time of 3:21.74, the second fastest time ever by a GB & NI quartet.
Williams, running the third leg, said, “It was great to be back out here – I got thrown straight into the deep end, but I’m so happy to come out here. My aim was to take it fast through 200 and shake off as many girls as I could, so I went out hard and tried to hold on as much as I could. We all gave it everything – no one has anything left we are all really happy. It really was all we could do, we were saying afterwards ‘we’re done’ three championships for these girls and two for me means it’s been a long old year.”
In the final track event of the evening the women’s 3000m Steeplechase, both Bird and Aimee Pratt (Vicente Modahl, Sale Harriers Manchester), who have been showing tremendous form this season as they have both set new British records in the last two months, were in action.
At the halfway stage of the race, a breakaway group of five included both Bird and Pratt, but the former kept herself in the medal places over the final few laps. With 800m to go, Luiza Gega (ALB) stormed away with no-one able to stay with her. Bird was neck and neck with the German, Lea Meyer, but with a roaring home crowd the German pulled away to take silver and the Briton held on for the bronze medal in 9:23.18. Meanwhile, Pratt ended her European campaign in seventh place in a time of 9:35.31.
Bird, the Commonwealth silver medallist, reflected, “It has sunk in. I’ve got to say I am a little disappointed, I came here to win, and I fell a little short, but I gave it everything I had today. I went for it, I gave it all I had but my legs just gave way on that last lap so I am happy I hung on for bronze. I can’t remember the last time my legs felt like that in a steeplechase. Getting over that last barrier was a real challenge but I just about did it!
“My expectations were lifted a lot after the Commonwealths and my run at Monaco and so I take that confidence into next year. If you had told me in January I would get a bronze medal and national records I would have been very, very happy!
“It’s not been a bad summer with Worlds, Commonwealths and here, and if I look back on it, it’s not been too bad at all, but now I am ready for a break!”
Earlier in the evening, in the first of three heats in the 100m hurdles, Jessica Hunter (Scott Grace, Shaftesbury Barnet) safely negotiated her way through to the semi-finals, finishing in first place to qualify automatically in 13.27. She will be joined by Cindy Sember (Chris Johnson, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) in those semi-finals – the world finalist had a direct bye through to that stage.
A happy Hunter said, “That felt good, I’m happy to finally get going! I’ve had the whole week off! Well not off but I’ve had to wait, and I’ve been itching to get going so I am so happy.
“I’m always stronger at the back end of the race once I have finally found my rhythm but in that race, it definitely wasn’t perfect and there are definitely a few things I need to neaten up but I’m through to the next round so I am happy.”
Great Britain and Northern Ireland medal tally (18):
Gold: Keely Hodgkinson 800m
Gold: Matthew Hudson-Smith – 400m
Gold: Zharnel Hughes – 200m
Gold: Laura Muir – 1500m
Gold: Men’s 4 x 400m relay
Silver: Dina Asher-Smith – 200m
Silver: Eilish McColgan – 10,000m
Silver: Jake Heyward – 1500m
Silver: Zharnel Hughes – 100m
Silver: Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake – 200m
Bronze: Jeremiah Azu – 100m
Bronze: Lizzie Bird – 3000m Steeplechase
Bronze: Daryll Neita – 100m
Bronze: Alex Haydock-Wilson – 400m
Bronze: Eilish McColgan – 5000m
Bronze: Lawrence Okoye – Discus
Bronze: Jazmin Sawyers – Long Jump
Bronze: Women’s 4 x 400m relay